Fentanyl: It’s Here and It’s Deadly

In early August 2020, the DEA, San Diego County District Attorney, US Attorney, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, San Diego County Health and Human Services, and San Diego County Medical Examiner released a joint statement regarding fentanyl-related overdose deaths. Within that warning was the startling statistic that last year, there were 152 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in San Diego County. In the first six months of 2020, there have already been 203 fentanyl-related deaths.

As recently as September 2020, the American Medical Association released an issue-brief reporting increases in opioid-related overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to this report, over 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related deaths.

Our community cannot continue on this trend. Fentanyl is here. It’s deadly, and together we must do everything we can to combat it.


Fentanyl Basics

Opioids are a class of drugs that are usually prescribed by doctors to relieve pain. While some opioids are made directly from the poppy plant, others are synthetic. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid traditionally prescribed to treat pain in patients with advanced stages of cancer.

Although they are highly effective in their treatment of severe pain, opioids are incredibly addictive. According to the CDC, in 2016, more than 11.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids in the past year.

While there has been some good news regarding declines in opioid-involved death rates, prescription opioid-involved death rates, and heroin-involved death rates, the bad news is that synthetic opioid-involved death rates have increased by 10%.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is partly responsible for the increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths. Fentanyl can be purchased intentionally, with an individual’s full knowledge of their purchase. In these cases, it is sold as a powder, as lozenges, in eye droppers, nasal inhalers, or made into pills.

However, fentanyl can also be unintentionally purchased when individuals seek out other manufactured drugs. Fentanyl is added to heroin as a cutter to get more heroin out of a batch. This fentanyl additive makes heroin extremely addictive, creating repeat customers quickly. Heroin addicts quickly find that fentanyl is 50 times more addictive than heroin. As a result, many switch to fentanyl for its intense high.

Traces of fentanyl can be found in all illicit drugs, including powders and pills, or cocaine and meth. It can kill instantly, especially when individuals are unaware of the added ingredient within the drug they initially took.


What Happens?

When a person ingests fentanyl, like other opioids, it binds to the body’s opioid receptors in the brain that control pain and emotions. Over time, the brain requires more and more of the opioid and cannot feel pleasure from anything other than the drug.



For those addicted to fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of their last ingestion. These symptoms are uncomfortable, even painful, and include muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting, insomnia, cold flashes, severe cravings, and uncontrollable leg movements. These symptoms of withdrawal make it very difficult for those who are addicted to fentanyl to quit without professional medical assistance.

What To Do

If you suspect someone has overdosed, call 911 immediately. If you carry naloxone, in either the auto-injector or nasal spray versions, administer it while you wait on emergency medical assistance. Those who have received naloxone must be monitored for two hours to ensure their safety.


Fentanyl addiction has no quick fix; however, that does not mean there is no hope. With consistent therapy and proven intervention strategies, you can succeed in your journey to sobriety and wellness.

At The Bridges of San Diego, an intensive outpatient drug and alcohol treatment center, we understand the enormous challenges facing you on your journey. We have created a safe and positive place to rehabilitate and recover and provide group therapy and individual or family counseling. The Bridges is specifically designed for individuals just transitioning out of inpatient rehab, or who cannot afford rehab in an inpatient environment.

We are now In-Network with Cigna, Tricare, and Devon Health and work with insurance agencies to secure your treatment. We also accept most PPO insurance policies. Together with your insurance provider, we can significantly reduce or eliminate out-of-pocket expenses.

Our team of certified and trained professionals works diligently with those suffering from addictions to opioids (including Fentanyl, Heroin, Percocet, and Vicodin), methamphetamine (meth), cocaine (including Crack), rave drugs (like Ecstasy, Ketamine, GHB, and LSD), alcohol, Xanax, and all benzodiazepines and synthetics (Spice).

Don’t wait. Contact The Bridges of San Diego today to get your life back: 619-330-0145